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Don’t bother sending energy drinks with your students to school this year—they’re not allowed.
And don’t send extra food with your child to trade or share with other students—that’s being discouraged.
If possible, replace cupcakes and other high-calorie school treats sent to classrooms for school parties with more nutritious foods.
These, and a number of other guidelines, are now a part of the Bedford County Public Schools student wellness policy.
Sara Staton, director of special services with BCPS, said students using energy drinks while at school have led to a number of 911 calls for help in the past.
New health, safety and wellness guidelines for parents to consider this year include:
• the school administration and teaching staff have the right to limit food items at school celebrations and events;
• students are encouraged not to share food and drinks at school;
• students are allowed to carry a transparent water bottle to school;
• no energy drinks, defined as drinks sold as an “energy boost;”
• parents should communicate with school staff concerning any medical conditions their child has that involves food; and
• when planning classroom school parties, it is preferred that the focus be more on activities, crafts and events rather than focused on food.
Staton said the use of food for instruction or as an incentive is being discouraged and suggested snack lists for parties have been put together to hand out to parents. Those lists include fruits and vegetables, protein and dairy items and a number of whole grain products. Parents will be notified when food products are being brought in for a classroom activity.
While food sharing among students is discouraged, Staton said that is an issue parents need to discuss with their children, prior to them coming to school. “It’s not going to be a disciplinary issue,” she said. “We’re trying to change the mindset.”
Individual school principals and staff will set food restrictions for class parties and activities. Patricia Knox, supervisor of school nurses for BCPS, believes this will ultimately lead to a number of good ideas being shared within the school system. She said the goal is not to police individuals, but rather to address wellness issues from a safety standpoint. “It’s our top priority,” she said.
The school system, through the help of the Bedford Community Health Foundation, Energize Bedford and the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth have received a grant to promote wellness within the school system. Schools has received a DVD set of Weight of the Nation as well as a book that goes with the DVDs. Schools have also received books promoting healthy party activities as well as posters promoting wellness, “Make the Change/Commit to be Fit.”
The nutrition component is one piece of the school system’s wellness policy which also focuses on school safety, drivers’ safety as well as mental and physical wellness.
“It’s about changing the way we think about exercise, food and parties,” Staton said of the policy. “The policy gives some parameters.”
But, she added, it also leaves room for schools to develop their own prescriptions for success in this area.
Elementary teachers have been provided with a First Aid Fanny Pack to take outdoors, encouraging more physical activity during recess.
After making significant changes last year to the school meals’ program in order to fall in line with new federal guidelines, students will see fewer changes to their meals this year, according to Karen Arthur, school nutrition supervisor with BCPS.
There are no significant changes to the lunch program, but some changes will be made to breakfast meals.
Last year’s changes resulted in a 4 percent to 5 percent reduction in students buying school meals, Arthur said. The biggest change was having the students adjust to the use of whole grain items.
“That was a big challenge,” she said, of getting the students to buy those products.
A second challenge last year was having the students take the required half-cup serving of a fruit or vegetables. A lot of times, Arthur said, the student would take the fruit or vegetables straight from their plate to the trashcan.
Some menu items weren’t as successful last year as she had hoped. Among those was the black bean and corn salsa.
While this year won’t bring many changes, next year more regulations kick in. That might mean the school system will have to evaluate its a la carte items offered. Beverage guidelines that kick in are already being met, she said.
Arthur is hoping students will enjoy some new menu items offered this year. A taste test was held at Montvale Elementary School earlier this summer on the last day of summer school. “We were pleased with the feedback we got,” Arthur said.
New items include an enchilada casserole, a beef and cheese tostada, southwestern cheesy tomato soup and turkey pot pie. The casserole was a successful recipe being offered already at Staunton River Middle School.
Arthur said the nutrition program tries to meet the federal guidelines while still providing meals that students want to eat. “It is difficult,” she said, of the reduced number of meals being sold. “It does affect the bottom line.”